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pointment. If we attempt innovations in the order of his house, the guilt begins with us, but the mischief may spread wide, and last long. It is dangerous to make new experiments in religion.
We find ourselves, perhaps, agreeably entertain. ed, and think we are greatly edified, by attending on some new and transient preacher, who assumes a new name, exhibits some new forms, and appears chiefly on days
which God has not sequestered for liis worship. But let us not mistake the mere emotions of passion for godly edification. The novelty of the scene may move us for a time, but when the scere is familiarized, the emotion will subside.
We are never to look for spiritual advantage in a departure from God's appointments.
When our hearts are formed to the love of holiness, and our lives are filled with good works, then may we conclude, that we are really edified: And this edification comes by attendance on God's institutions. Christ has given pastors and teachers for the perfecting of his saints, and the cdifying of his church. And it is by attending on their ministry, that we make increase to the edifying of ourselves in love. If we disturb the peace, and break the unity of his church, in order to our personal edification, we mistake the means, and shall miss of the end. Christians are a mutual comfort, when they are fellow workers to the kingdom of God; ttuurefore study the things which make for peace, and the things where with you may edily one an. other.
-Judge nothing before the time, till the Lord come.
ROM the connexion in which these words stand, it is evident, that the Apostle has reference to our judging other men's spiritual condition.
He wishes, that he may stand well in the charity of the Corinthians, as a faithful steward of the mysteries of God; but he desires them not to judge peremptorily in his case, or in any case of the like nature. For a man's sincerity is a matter of such secrecy and importance, that he should be cautions and diffident in judging even himself. But Christ will come to judgment; and then shall every man, who has been faithful, have praise of him. Therefore, says he, “judge nothing before the time, till the Lord come."
The Apostle here teaches us, that all pretensions to a certain knowledge of other men's sincerity in religion, are rash and unwarrantable.
An observation or two will be necessary to a clear statement of this doctrine.
I would observe, first, that we are in some cases more competent judges of the wickedness, than in any case, we are, of the goodness of men's hearts.
The open, customary practice of any vice is a decisive evidence of inward reigning corruption. Particular acts of sin are incident to good men. But the habitual indulgence of sin is characteristic of the wicked only. "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment ; and some men they follow after.” When Sinion the sorcerer proposed to purchase with money the miraculous gifts of the holy Ghost, that he might make gain by trafficking in them, it was no rashness in Peter to say, “I perceive that thou art in the bond of ini. quity." This was a plain case; and there may be other cases as plain.
But then, on the other hand, we cannot with equal certainty pronounce any man to be holy ; for worldly motives may operate on corrupt hearts to produce the external appearance of holiness. Hence we are more capable of judging some men to be sinners, than we are of judging any men to be saints.
I would observe, secondly, That though we cannot absolutely determine any man's godly sincerity, yet we may form such a charitable judgment con. cerning our fellow christians, as is sufficient to re. ligious communion.
We may have different degrees of evidence in favour of different persons, arising from their different attainments, or from our different acquaintance with them. But our judgment must always incline to the favourable side. We are to condemn no man as a sinner, till we have positive evidence, that he is such. We are to hope every man a saint, till we have conclusive evidence, that he is not such Vol. II.
It is always safer to err on the candid, than on the censorious part. If there be a good profession, and nothing to contradict that profession, we have no warrant to condemn men as sinners, or exclude them from our charitable hopes.
Having stated the doctrine in the text, we shall now adduce our arguments in support of it.
1. The knowledge of men's hearts is God's prerogative.
This God assumes to himself. "I the Lord search the hearts ; I try the reins of the children of men”-“ All the churches shall know, that I am he, who search the reins and the heart.” This Solomon ascribes to him exclusively of all others. even thou only knowest the hearts of all the children of men.” It is on this ground, that the Apostle cautions us not to judge any thing before the time. “'The Lord will come, and bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart.” Since the scripture acknowledges the judgment of the heart as belonging exclusively to God; for us to assume it, is to invade his throne.
2. It is no easy matter for men to know their own hearts.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it ?” There are in the human heart so many delusive appearances, which flatter its natural vanity—so many evil dispositions, which lie dormant, till a suitable temptation calls them into action—50 many unworthy motives, which work insensibly—so many arts of selfimposition, that “ he who hastily trusts his own heart, is a fool.” The Apostle says, “I judge not my own self; for though I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified, for he that judgeth me, is the Lord.”
We are cautioned not to deceive ourselves, nor to be deceived. We are exhorted to fear, lest we
seem to come short of the promised rest—to examine ourselves whether we be in the faith--to give diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end. We are wamed, that there is such a čase, as a man's seeming to himself to be something, when he is nothing; and seeming to be religious, when all his religion is vain. Impressed with a sense of the deceitfulness of the heart, David prays, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults." “ Search me, O God, and know my heart, prove me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
If there be need of so much examination, watchfulness, diligence, experience and observation, in order to form a satisfactory judgment of our own character, how shall we know the sincerity of others? We can look into our own hearts directly. Into the hearts of others we can look only circuitously.
This leads me to say,
3. We can judge the hearts of others oily by external indications.
“I will shew my faith by my works.” In conversing with a friend we may be much pleas. ed with his doctrinal knowledge, religious sen. timents, and professed experience of the power of godliness, and may entertain a very favorable o. pinion of his character. His profession however, is but external evidence. It gives us hope of his piety; but it can go no further. We know not, but he aims to deceive us, or may be deceived himself.
Such works as are the proper fruits of faith are more solid evidence ; for in these there is less room for dissimulation. But we may misjudge even here ; for it is but a small part of any man's life, which falls under our observation. The more secret, which are the more numerous parts of it, escape our notice. We may see many good actions